M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, O.A. No. 200 of 2014 (ongoing proceeding)

Water Resources Rivers

The following summary emphasizes portions of the National Green Tribunal (Tribunal)
judgments and orders that address plastic pollution in the River Ganga. Through these orders
and many others, the Tribunal also imposed strict orders concerning industrial pollution,
sewage treatment, waste disposal and other activities contributing to river pollution.

In an ongoing, multi-year proceeding concerning pollution in the River Ganga, the Tribunal has systematically addressed the causes of pollution, including disposal of single-use plastic, along large segments of the river. The Tribunal acknowledged its important role in preventing degradation of the river, which spans more than 2,500 kilometers and supports important environmental, cultural, and spiritual purposes in India. M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, O.A. No. 200 of 2014 (Judgment, 10 December 2015). The Tribunal observed: “A time has come when all, including this Tribunal, must not hesitate to pass appropriate orders and directions in relation to cleaning of river Ganga, which is not only the need of hour, but also an indispensable necessity in the interest of environment and public health.” Id., p. 7. 

In 2015, the Tribunal ordered a “complete prohibition on use of plastic, i.e., plastic carry bags/plastic plates, glasses, spoons, packages and allied items” in cities and towns along a 450-kilometer segment of the River Ganga and its tributaries. Id., p. 135. The prohibition encompassed procurement, storage and sale of such plastic items. The Tribunal strongly targeted plastic carry bags, noting “[u]nder no circumstances, plastic carry bags of any thickness whatsoever would be permitted.” Id. The Tribunal directed state officials to work with other ministries to provide biodegradable alternatives to plastic bags and other disposable plastic items. Id. 

Two years later, the Tribunal issued an order reiterating its directions concerning plastic pollution and further imposed a ban on manufacture and sale of plastic in the area covered by the previous judgment. The Tribunal urged state officials to implement the directions “strictly and without default,” establishing a fine of Rs. 5000 for each violation. M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, O.A. No. 200 of 2014 (Order, 14 December 2017), pp. 10-11.